Scott vs. Watson what does Matthew Scott’s attack on Tom Watson tell us?

English: Tom Watson speaking at the 5th COMMUN...

English: Tom Watson speaking at the 5th COMMUNIA Workshop at London School of Economics, 26th March 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In his Telegraph article of 21 October 2015, [1]Matthew Scott argues that Tom Watson’s behaviour has damaged the various Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) investigations. He makes several interrelated arguments. The first is that Mr. Watson’s intervention has diverted police resources from other cases.

“The Labour MP’s interfering in cases like that of Leon Brittan means resources have been diverted from far more pressing investigations.”

The claim sounds very bold and could have some validity. However, Mr. Scott never backs this statement up with any evidence about police capacity and what he means by resources. The police do have finite resources, yet we have not heard that their resources are stretched. Moreover, the police are experienced in dealing with multiple operations. Perhaps, Mr. Scott could substantiate his claim with evidence so that it can be tested.

Did Watson derail a possible criminal trial? Why do we argue the counterfactual?

We turn to his particular concern within the article. He argues that the Watson’s focus on Leon Brittan, especially under parliamentary privilege*** (clarification), would have derailed any case should one have emerged. On the surface, such a view is compelling. Yet, if we consider the argument in depth, we start to find it is not as robust as it appears. Moreover, it raises the question of why Mr. Scott is so keen to defend a dead man when the living victims remain without justice.

What is the purpose of Mr. Scott’s article?

We begin with Mr. Scott’s opening statement. He argues that Mr. Watson’s responses to the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) would have had no effect on those who oppose him or support him. If that is the case, then what is the point of the article? Who is it that Mr. Scott wants to convince and what is it the case that he wants to make?

He appears to want to make the case that Mr. Watson’s transgression appears to be that he has

“not given enough thought to the way his interference might have derailed any criminal trial, if there had in fact been any evidence resulting in a trial.”

Here we find a curious situation. Mr. Watson is to be criticized for not knowing the future. I am not sure anyone knows the future. How could they know the possible consequences of their behaviour beyond an immediate impact? Furthermore, we do not know if a criminal trial would even have occurred. Thus, we are to be convinced by Mr. Scott that Mr. Watson should not have spoken up as he did not know the future, did not know how this might influence a future criminal case, and did not know whether the evidence would have led to a trial.[2]

Mr. Scott wants to argue about a situation that never happened? Why?

Here is the curious issue. Why is Mr. Scott concerned about something that did not happen and even if it did happen, the criminal trial, how can he know what evidence, if any would be admissible or prejudicial? It appears that the sins he wishes to condemn in Mr. Watson are exactly what he is practicing.

He then focuses on how Mr. Watson may have dealt with “Jane” the person who has made the rape allegation. He focuses on how xxxx questioned Mr. Watson over this issue. However, Mr. Watson is not a police officer and his role as an MP is not to conduct investigations or to interview constituents under caution. If this is what MPs are supposed to do, it seems a rather extreme way to deal with constituents. If MPs are to deal with constituents under police caution, how many people would want to talk to their MPs?

Everyday constituents contact their MPs about issues. Mr. Scott in referring to Victoria Atkins seems to suggest that every interaction needs to be considered on whether it might prejudice a criminal trial. How an MP is to do this when they do not know if a criminal trial is pending, or is even viable, seems unclear. Neither Mr. Scott nor Victoria Atkins explains how anyone can know whether a criminal trial might be prejudiced except the judge and the Crown Prosecution Service. In particular, if the statements are made within the privacy of the MP’s surgery, how will they create a prejudice as the only people involved are the MP and the constituent?

The five points to Mr. Scott’s case, do they bear scrutiny if they were applied to him?

Then Mr. Scott makes a rather curious statement.

“At every stage, Watson was implicated in driving on a police investigation that otherwise would never have happened.”

First, Mr. Watson is an MP he does not work for the police. Second, how does Mr. Scott know whether the investigation would have occurred or not regardless of Mr. Watson’s involvement? As the testimony before the HASC by the police stated, they have a duty to investigate rape allegations. Third, how does Mr. Scott know that Mr. Watson has such authority over the police and can direct their investigations *at every stage*? His evidence seems strangely circumstantial.

“First he introduced Jane to the police.”

If Mr. Watson as MP passed the allegation to the police what else was he to do? Was he not to do this? If not, why not? Surely, as a barrister Mr. Scott would want allegations of a crime reported. Unless, he is suggesting that MPs do not pass allegations to the police. If so, why?

Second he refers to the letter Mr. Watson wrote

“When the experienced DCI Settle, the officer in charge of the case, decided any further investigation would amount – in his words – to a “baseless witch-hunt”, Watson then wrote an inflammatory letter over the officer’s head, to the DPP herself, in effect demanding that Brittan be interviewed.”

When we look at the letter, we realize quickly and clearly it demands nothing. The language is banal and seeks to find out what is happening. It does not make a demand nor does it state that something must happen.[3]

Third, Mr. Scott concludes that what he asked for was a witch hunt

“In other words, he was asking the DPP to perform what the officer in charge of the investigation actually did regard as a “witch-hunt”.

Yet, we look at what prompted the letter and it was the statement that the suspect was not interviewed *which is contrary to ACPO/CPS guidance* [emphasis added]. Thus, Mr. Watson is wondering why the procedures he would have expected to be followed were not followed. Yet, this is claimed to be a witch hunt. Surely, Mr. Scott as a practicing barrister is not suggesting that anytime a police officer interviews a suspect they are conducting a witch hunt. By his logic, this appears to be the case.

He then turns to the fact that the letter was made public.

“The letter – although not at that stage Brittan’s identity – was made public on the Exaro News website, and shortly afterwards a new police team was brought in to review the inquiry.”

What we know, though, is that Mr. Watson did not send the letter to Exaro. He had no control over that disclosure. However, that the press became involved and that had an effect is the accepted way of doing business in the UK. Surely, Mr. Scott knows that other Murdoch papers such as NOTW and the Sun put and continue to put extensive pressure on the Police, the DPP, and the CPS to influence their work. He seems upset that someone other than a Murdoch paper has done what the Murdoch papers have done for years. Why?

He then turns to the issue at the heart of the letter—Brittan was interviewed.

“Brittan was interviewed, although, it seems, to very little purpose, except to reinforce the impression that there was no credible evidence against him.”

What is curious is that Mr. Scott knows exactly what was asked and that the police had nothing useful from the interview. How does he know what the police asked and what Mr. Brittan answered?

What type of MP would Mr. Scott’s criticisms create? We already know: consider Mr. Martin

If we consider the above in a wider context, Mr. Scott’s thesis appears strange and contradictory. Based on the points he has made against Mr. Watson, we would have to conclude that Mr. Scott would not want an MP to listen to his constituents. If he were to listen to his constituents, it should only be under police caution and the meeting should be recorded. Further, the MP is not to bring any of these concerns to the police unless he knows them to be true and they would not prejudice a possible case. In many ways, it appears from his criticism of Mr. Watson he would want him to act as another MP, Mr. Martin, MP for Consett, behaved about Medomsley Detention Centre for young offenders.

I raised the issue for you and they said it was nothing, what else do you want me to do?

When Mr. Martin was an MP he received repeated claims of abuse at the Medomsley detention centre in his constituency. The first was in 1967, the next was in 1981 following the deaths of two inmates aged 17. At each stage, the MP Mr. Martin took the government’s response at face value. At each stage, the government reassured him that there was nothing to the allegations. What we now know is that there was a regime of brutality and abuse over decades so horrific that hardened police officers were shocked by it. For decades, the young inmates were beaten, brutalized and raped. When Neil Husband was active at Medomsley he raped and brutalized young men on a regular basis and it is now revealed a paedophile ring operated at the centre.[4] Despite many investigations, his abuse was never discovered. Most telling when Mr. Leon Brittan visited in March 1985, as Home Secretary, he praised it for the positive impact it was having! [5]

No one ever apologises for the horrors during their time in office, why?

Whitelaw, Brittan, and Thatcher never apologised for the abuse that flourished for decades The Crown has never apologised to any of the victims.

Mr. Scott seems to want to have more MPs like Mr. Martin and not like Mr. Watson. Why?

Is this the type of MP that Mr. Scott wants to encourage? Is this the type of approach he would take on behalf of one of his clients if they came to him with an allegation of abuse?

Mr. Scott continues with his claims. He suggests, indirectly, that DCI Settle was moved from the case because of Mr. Watson.

DCI Settle was removed from his duties – even though, as events have shown, he was clearly right – and as we now know from his evidence he has done “very little” since. The Met can ill afford to lose officers like him on to extended gardening duty.

Here we have a deeper issue. Mr Scott praises DCI Settle’s approach as he assumes that post hoc ergo proctor hoc that the outcome was known before the question was asked of Mr. Brittan. Moreover, Mr. Scott appears to endorse DCI’s Settle’s initial decision not to interview Mr Brittan after a rape allegation *even though it is ACPO guidance that the suspect is interviewed following a rape allegation*. Perhaps Mr. Scott would explain why he believes police procedures should not be followed for Mr. Brittan. Why is it that Mr. Brittan should be exempted from the rule of law? Would Mr. Scott endorse this behaviour if “Jane” were his client?

Is the real issue that Mr. Brittan was inconvenienced by the rule of law?

We now turn to the underlying issue within Mr. Scott’s article. How Mr. Brittan was treated by the police and the CPS.

Meanwhile, a dying man was left in limbo as the police refused to accept the CPS view that the case didn’t begin to justify their involvement.

We are not told how Mr. Watson was at fault for the delay between the police and the CPS. However, it would appear that somehow he is to blame. As Mr. Scott continues:

It was a scandal and a disgrace. Yet even as Brittan was hardly dead, in January 2015 Watson was penning a diatribe against him in the Mirror, something for which he finally issued an apology.

What was a scandal and a disgrace we are not told. We are left to infer, from what Mr. Scott has implied, is that Mr. Brittan being left in limbo was the scandal and disgrace. Yet, the real scandal and disgrace is that Mr. Brittan could have been interviewed earlier, if DCI Settle had decided to do it, and the issue would have been resolved without requiring Mr. Watson to pursue the issue on behalf of his client.

Mr. Scott describes a catastrophe but for whom? Mr. Watson or Mr. Brittan?

Mr. Scott continues to claim that Mr. Watson’s involvement has been catastrophic without explaining how or why. He simply asserts this claim with no evidence.

But Watson’s campaign over the Lord Brittan rape investigation has been little short of catastrophic. Because of Watson’s intervention, Brittan died without being told that he was regarded as innocent of rape.

We are left to infer that what was catastrophic was that Brittan died without being told he was regarded as innocent of rape. Yet, is that a catastrophe? Every day there are people left uncertain of their fate before the police, the prosecutors, the Courts and the government. Someone in this case, it is a catastrophe. More importantly, it would appear we are to infer this catastrophe was Mr. Watson’s fault as he initiated what the police should have done from the start. The cost is now explained.

It may not approach the suffering of the Brittans but a decent and conscientious policeman has also been left swinging in the wind. Resources have been diverted from far more pressing investigations.

The issue is now the suffering of the Brittans and the police man. We can appreciate and sympathize with the Brittans that their family member has had to face these allegations. They have had to live with this media circus. Yet, they would also appreciate that the law is to be followed, that the police are to act appropriately, and the investigations are to be done correctly. Surely, Mr. Scott would agree that the law stands above any individual’s suffering as that is the basis of the law since at least Sophocles’ Antigone. Unless, for some reason, Mr Scott believes that Leon Brittan should be exempt from the law and police procedure.

This case may never have reached court? The other might but Mr. Scott never mentions them. Why?

Mr. Scott closes as he started making a claim about the potential impact on a possible criminal case should one have even reached the stage where a trial would have begun.

And it is doubly fortunate that there was no substance in Jane’s allegations. If there had been, as Victoria Atkins’s questioning demonstrated, Tom Watson’s bungling interference might well have led to any real case falling apart.

We have to consider why Mr. Scott even wrote this article. What purpose did it serve? At best, it was an attack on Mr. Watson using the victims, the innocent, as a shield and justification thus, the indirect concern over resources and a possible criminal trial. What is it that Mr. Watson had done? He had acted on behalf of a constituent. He did his job. We know that the law and the police procedures had not been followed correctly. On all of these issues, why is Mr. Scott opposed to Mr. Watson? Is Mr. Scott against an MP acting on behalf of his client? Is Mr. Scott willing to accept at face value what is said about his clients? Does Mr. Scott want the law and the police procedure to be suspended when it involves powerful figures, especially dead ones? He needs to explain why the powerful dead need such a vigorous, vociferous defence and the weak living victims languish without a voice to hold the powerful to account.

What we write and what we defend or attack reveals something of our character.

We can judge a man’s character by what ideas he decided to believe, what causes he would defend, and what injustices he would attack. I know what Mr. Watson has chosen. What has Mr. Scott chosen?


***Clarification 28 October 2015. I have been contacted about the phrasing of this sentence. Mr. Watson did not name Mr. Brittan in Parliament. It was referring to his response in Parliament to a request that he apologise for an article he wrote about Leon Brittan.

In 2012 when Mr. Watson raised his question in Parliament at the Prime Minister Question Time about the pedophile ring (see 9 seconds)  in Westminister he did not name anyone but did raise a question about a powerful pedophile network linked to Parliament and No. 10 (see 38-38 seconds)

My apologies if the passage reads as if Mr. Watson had named Mr. Brittan in Parliament or that Mr. Scott was referring to Mr. Watson naming Mr. Brittan. Neither of those is a correct reading of the passage.


[2] As someone pointed out last year the case was unlikely to get to trial, let alone be prejudiced by a public statement, given its circumstantial nature.

“At the end of the day, if the CPS had agreed to pursue charges against Mr X, it would have been Jane’s word against Mr X. After 47 years there would have been no forensic evidence and there were no witnesses to the rape. Even if Mr X could be placed at the ‘crime scene’ the prosecution would still have to have proven that Jane did not consent and all of this ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ for a jury to find Mr X guilty of rape.”

Surely, as a trained Barrister, Mr. Scott would be aware of these issues. It seems passing strange he is certain that a criminal trial would have followed and that Mr. Watson’s involvement would have prejudiced it.




About lawrence serewicz

An American living and working in the UK trying to understand the American idea and explain it to others. The views in this blog are my own for better or worse.
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